Question My Computer freezes, hangs, and the audio stutters.

Jun 30, 2021
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Hello, Tom's Hardware community! I am in need of your help! Recently, my computer has been acting up crazy as it freezes, hangs, and audio stutters (the endless loop of 'bzzzz' or similar) while either playing games or just browsing the internet.
This happened more frequently as 2021 started as I do not experience this much last year.

Pc Specs:
-(2nd hand) Dell Xps 8900
-16 GBs of Ripjaws V 2400mhz (but only runs at 2133mhz); originally it only has 8GB of ram 2400 mhz (runs 2133 mhz) of the same brand and model
-1 TB HDD
-128 GB of SSD
-2 TB of external HDD
-GTX 960, 2 GB variant
-460w PSU (this came in the prebuilt of dell 8900)
-Intel i7 6700k (not oc)
-Dell OEM motherboard of z170

=== Backstory ===
A little bit of back story, last year my pc is running smoothly, no audio stuttering nor pc freezes, there are occasional hangs that happens from time to time when playing a game or when using software (like adobe photoshop, premiere pro, etc)
I started playing Valorant and it runs well. I play CSGO, Dota2, LoL, Witcher 3, and many other games (mostly free games from steam and epic games) and they run just fine. At the time, playing Valorant was okay. The system requirement is not demanding and I think that my pc will be going to run that game just fine. After a few weeks of playing that game, I stopped and go back to other games that I usually play with friends.

When 2021 entered, I go back to play Valorant again for the new act rank. That is where the problem shows up. I start the game, then sometimes when I'm at the home or main menu, it would crash and giving me an error of 'Graphics Driver crash error code or something. Then I would run it again and this time I could play a match. In the match, around 5 to 10 mins in, the game would freeze, I cannot move my mouse nor press the numpad key as it is literally unresponsive. The audio would stutter like crazy, on loop like a buzz sound or so, and the screen would just freeze. I don't know what is causing that to happen. There is another case of similar situation, this time I am playing warcraft 3 v1.31 (cracked) with my friends using eurobattle net, and then after like a few minutes (sometimes hours) of gameplay, the game would freeze, but I can still hear the audio of the game and can still talk to my friends at discord. At first, I don't know how to fix it, so I force shutdown the pc by holding the power button for 5 to 10 seconds, then reboot. The second time it happens, I thought of using ctrl+alt+del, it worked and I would open the task manager and I can continue playing the game like nothing happened. Now, I did this exact thing when I played Valorant, it did not work as the pc is literally frozen and unresponsive. Opening the task manager using the ctrl+shift+esc would not even work and now I am stuck on an endless loop of force shutting it down, then rebooting, and so on.

That was around January to February of 2021, moving onwards to more recent events, my pc now is much worse than before. Even just browsing the internet, listening to youtube while I draw using photoshop cc 2019, it would freeze, then audio stuttering. I would obviously force shutdown and hope for the best after the reboot. More recently, I would play overcooked 2 and play with my friends. After a while (this is random, there is no specific way of telling when) the game froze, pc unresponsive but the audio didn't stutter, since I can hear the game fine. Ctrl+alt+del is not working, as the numpad key is not working or the other keys (like caps lock) and the mouse is not moving. So I just force shutdown it and reboot. Weirdly enough, Valorant is now playing well on my PC, but only when I play on my main account. When I play using my alt account or my friend's account, the problem happens again as if my pc is possessed. I do not know why it is not happening on my main account.

I stopped playing games for a few weeks as the finals of my college is creeping in, and I need time to focus on it. Luckily my pc is not freezing when I am doing online classes, the only thing that happened was the PC hangs for a solid 2-3 seconds and the screen goes black then it goes back to normal as if nothing happened. That thing happens more frequently now when I am surfing the web, or drawing digitally. As I stopped playing games, the freezes and hangs happened less frequently and I would use this PC normally. That is until after I finished the semester and go back to playing games with my friends, PC would freeze and hangs like crazy. Yesterday, I was so desperate to play a game with my friends, so I searched in Steam for a game that is not very demanding, I found a game called MUCK, which is a 100 mb game. The thing is, my pc would freeze after 10 mins of game time. This game is not even a gigabyte big yet my pc struggles to play this game, how would I play other games now?

=== End of backstory ===

=== Things that I did to try and fix the PC ===
I tried various methods to fix this, they are as follows:

Method 1: Rollback drivers of GPU
-This did not work, and the game that I play (at the time was Valorant) still freezes
-I downloaded the latest drivers anyway since Valorant would pop up an error saying it needs at least version 4xx of Nvidia Drivers

Method 2: Re-apply Thermal Paste to both GPU and CPU, and cleaning all the fans in my PC
-This dell Pre-built does not have many locations to place a fan, there is only 1 exhaust, 1 fan for the PSU, 1 fan from the CPU Cooler, and the 1 fan that the GPU has (the GPU is OEM)
-After re-applying the thermal paste compound, the pc would not stutter for a solid 1 day. The next day, it would freeze/hangs, and the audio stutters
•Thermal-wise, my CPU sits at around the mid 30s to low 40s C on idle, while my GPU sits at around low to mid 40s C on idle
•When playing a game, my GPU sky rockets to around high 80s to mid 90s C, that is why I re-apply a thermal paste to lessen the temps


Method 3: I reset my PC, using the 'Reset this PC'
-I choose the 'Remove Everything'
-After a few days of using the new OS, the problem appears once again

Method 4: Tried using less RAM
-Nope, did not work
-Not ideal since I use apps that require more ram than 8gbs so I put it back after 3 days of only using a single stick of ram
•Also I am running at dual-channel

Method 5: Used the Windows Memory Diagnostic (WMD)
-I've tried this method 3 times, no errors found in all sessions
-The first one was around April, the second around May, and the third is around June (which is today)

Method 6: Used CrystalDiskInfo
-I used this to check if my Drives are not in good health
-They are all in good condition as shown in the software

Method 7: I removed my other monitor that is connected to the GPU and place it on the HDMI port of the motherboard
-Error still happened
-I did this because I thought my GPU is struggling to power 2 Monitors (my other monitor is a HUION Kamvas GT 156 where I draw digitally)

Method 8: I updated my BIOS using the DellSupport software
-Since this is a prebuilt system, the Dell software works wonders as it updated my bios and deleted some junk files and such
-Did not work, even after the BIOS update

Method 9: I put the settings of the BIOS to its default settings
-I did this because maybe there are changes in the BIOS settings that could potentially make this PC go crazy
-Did not work

Method 10: Use a third-party software called Display Driver Uninstaller (DDU)
-I did this because I've installed many drivers to the GPU as I roll back and reinstall drivers
-I obviously go to safe mode and unplugged my ethernet, then after that, I reboot and then install the latest Nvidia drivers
-Did not work even after using this software

Method 11: I used System File Checker (SFC)
-using this method, I thought it fixed the problem since I thought this could be a 'software' issue
-After the system checked my PC, I reboot but the problem is still there

=== End of Methods ===

=== Last note ===

I am planning to replace my GPU and PSU as I am pinpointing if this is now a hardware issue. My ram sticks work fine (if we are basing on the results of WMD) so I guess it is not the ram. The reason why I wanted to replace the PSU is maybe that it is getting old? I am not sure really. The GPU that I want to replace my current one is either GTX 1660 super or RTX 2060, but I am broke right now as I live in a third-world country. I know that every part of the world is struggling to find a GPU that is close to MSRP, and I am hoping to at least find a decent-priced GPU in the market but all are inflated prices so I just need to swallow my pride and buy a GPU twice of its original price.

Disk Drives are fine, as stated in Crystal Disk Info. I know this is a third-party app, but I know that this is trusted by the community.

Another thing, the new windows update that happened a few days ago might add to the problem as this might be an incompatibility issue? I am not an expert in this field, I just based it off on articles that I read on google and such. I hope that I can find a way to fix this, somehow.

If neither the GPU nor PSU is the culprit, the last thing would be the Motherboard, which would be a big problem since finding a motherboard that houses an i7-6700k is kind of expensive, but I guess there is no other workaround if that is the case.

If all else fails, I would just buy a new CPU + Motherboard and planning to go AMD Ryzen. This PC is not that old, as I got this around 2017, but as I said this is a 2nd hand system so I cannot know how old this is really.

=== End ===
 
Jun 30, 2021
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I'll admit that I've have everything above and I doubt most folks won't as well.

I suspect the RAM and the one you left in might be the wrong stick.


Try the other two in two separate experiments.
Okay, I will try to use the other one that I removed last time. I agree with you that maybe the one used might be the working one since it is the new RAM stick that I bought last year. The difference between the two sticks is years apart, so I guess that might be something. I'll update you once I get the time to disassemble my PC.
 
Jun 30, 2021
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I'll admit that I've have everything above and I doubt most folks won't as well.

I suspect the RAM and the one you left in might be the wrong stick.


Try the other two in two separate experiments.
Hello, I'm back! Just got the time to remove the RAM today and did some test.

I disabled some services using MSConfig to lessen the ram usage, then run the two games that I have a hard time using.

MUCK - 21 mins test, run smoothly no problems

Overcooked 2 - after loading the game for a minute, the game freezes in the main menu for 2-3 seconds; the screen turned black then goes back. The game is now frozen/unresponsive, but the PC is working properly as I can alt-tab and move my mouse.
-I think the problem lies in the game itself, as when the game was frozen, a UNITY error pop-up, and then a green bar loads as if it is sending the error to them, then the game closes itself.

So I guess removing the RAM was the solution for now, but I will update the thread if I ever encounter something in a week. The other RAM is the faulty one, and I have no way to know if it is usable, is it a compatibility issue? If so, what RAM should I put in this pre-built system?
 
Jun 30, 2021
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UPDATE

As of today, the pc freezes again. The audio stuttering happens again, and the pc was unresponsive. I thought everything was okay, so I guess this is still unsolved. I hope to find a solution to this problem. Thanks to the people who would help, and helped with my problem.
 
Jul 11, 2021
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Hi , thanks for the update. I am dealing with same issues on my pc, and havent found a solution yet for my issue. I tried everything, in terms of software, but without solving it yet.

What you also could do is to reinstall windows in offline mode and deactivate the Windows update service and also the service for automatically updating drivers. Before that, unplug all periphery which is not neccessary, and install all drivers manually one after another. Doing this i solved a windows update destroying my system issue last year.

Also its worth a try to check the dmp.files , if you have any under windows/mindump folder. There you can get the infos about wrong hardware or bad drivers. How to read them simply go toYT and look for it. there are plenty of good infos how to analyse dmp files. Its really worth it.

What also caused a lot issues on my friends PC was windows updates and Valorant. Strange but true. So remove the game , and try again, or if you reinstall windows, dont install it first.

If nothing helps as it is in my case, i will start to change hardware, and from my experience building PCs since 20 years, those effects always were caused by a PSU going down. Most PSUs are not like work or fail, like one day you press your power button and nothing happens, they tend to get unstable over the years of usage, and sometimes bring not enough voltage to the gpu or cpu. The drivers then stop working and either the system crashes, or freezes, or simply restarts. Sometimes you can hear windows audio in the background too, or this sound, when you plug in a usb stick, when windows detects new hardware. This indicates that the system lost hardware and got it again, but this doesn´t work with GPU or CPU once it stopped working,.

So if you start changing hardware, start with a new PSU which has enough power for your GPU and is compatible with your board. Its also most likely the cheapest part to change.

As i tried everything but changing hardware, i will send back my PC. luckily i have warranty for all parts.

Also if you fix your issue, it would be nice to hear from you, what caused the freezes on your pc.

Best regards

Edit: luckily i most likely found the cause of my freezes.
I did a memtest86 run today. It is really a great test to perform for your RAM. Yo can download the software for free and make a bootable USB stick with it. After booting the stick, the software simply writes and receives data from RAM and compares it
If any error occurs, then RAM is defect. After 5 hours and almost at the end of the run, i finally received some errors which points to a defect RAM

Now i did a memtest within windows some days before, which showed no issues at all.
so Memtest86 is worth a try also to exclude your RAM from being the cause for your freezes.
Best Regards
 
Last edited:
Jun 30, 2021
5
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Hi , thanks for the update. I am dealing with same issues on my pc, and havent found a solution yet for my issue. I tried everything, in terms of software, but without solving it yet.

What you also could do is to reinstall windows in offline mode and deactivate the Windows update service and also the service for automatically updating drivers. Before that, unplug all periphery which is not neccessary, and install all drivers manually one after another. Doing this i solved a windows update destroying my system issue last year.

Also its worth a try to check the dmp.files , if you have any under windows/mindump folder. There you can get the infos about wrong hardware or bad drivers. How to read them simply go toYT and look for it. there are plenty of good infos how to analyse dmp files. Its really worth it.

What also caused a lot issues on my friends PC was windows updates and Valorant. Strange but true. So remove the game , and try again, or if you reinstall windows, dont install it first.

If nothing helps as it is in my case, i will start to change hardware, and from my experience building PCs since 20 years, those effects always were caused by a PSU going down. Most PSUs are not like work or fail, like one day you press your power button and nothing happens, they tend to get unstable over the years of usage, and sometimes bring not enough voltage to the gpu or cpu. The drivers then stop working and either the system crashes, or freezes, or simply restarts. Sometimes you can hear windows audio in the background too, or this sound, when you plug in a usb stick, when windows detects new hardware. This indicates that the system lost hardware and got it again, but this doesn´t work with GPU or CPU once it stopped working,.

So if you start changing hardware, start with a new PSU which has enough power for your GPU and is compatible with your board. Its also most likely the cheapest part to change.

As i tried everything but changing hardware, i will send back my PC. luckily i have warranty for all parts.

Also if you fix your issue, it would be nice to hear from you, what caused the freezes on your pc.

Best regards

Edit: luckily i most likely found the cause of my freezes.
I did a memtest86 run today. It is really a great test to perform for your RAM. Yo can download the software for free and make a bootable USB stick with it. After booting the stick, the software simply writes and receives data from RAM and compares it
If any error occurs, then RAM is defect. After 5 hours and almost at the end of the run, i finally received some errors which points to a defect RAM

Now i did a memtest within windows some days before, which showed no issues at all.
so Memtest86 is worth a try also to exclude your RAM from being the cause for your freezes.
Best Regards
TL;DR
I ended up buying a new rig rather than finding what is the main cause of the problem.


Thank you for your response, para1971. Unfortunately, I would really like to find a solution to this problem (it still happens as of today) and it got to the point where I think it's the PSU but I couldn't pinpoint the problem yet. I haven't tried your recommendation of using memtest86, and I will try that on the weekends. Also to give a short update, I ended up buying new components for my PC, I am now changing to AMD Ryzen, but would still use the same RAM and GPU since that is all I could afford but would replace the rams in the future. If I were you (someone who experiences this same problem) I would try to change components first rather than buying a whole new rig. As I said, it could be a faulty PSU since this rig is turning 5 years old and PSU tend to degrade over time so there's that. You could run software that tests your components, like what para1971 said, use memtest86, stress-test your components (do it at your own risks since this could potentially damage them), and the like. The reason why I ended up buying a new one is that I keep facing this problem over and over again for the past few weeks. I am also thinking of upgrading my CPU last year as this may be helpful for what I do (I do digital drawings, editing, 3d editing, and the like) so Ryzen is a go-to as what people and my friends say.
 

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